— September 5, 2018
The world of social media has changed drastically in the past couple of years. No longer is it just a place to share cat videos and complain about your life. We now live in constant dread over what our president is going to rant about on Twitter. Controversial comments that once were passed from mouth to ear are now placed on social media for the world to see. You never know where the next nasty phrase or idiotic comment will come from.
Even though social media has been around for almost 20 years, it’s still amazing how people forget or just don’t care about how public it can be. Everything you put up there is seen by your family, your friends, your friends’ friends, your friends’ friends’ friends, your dog, your cat, your giraffe…. everyone. It’s part of the public record. We all now know that you went out dancing and got wasted last Friday night. We also know you went on vacation a few weeks ago to the Bahamas or what you had to eat two days ago or that you posted a link about the cast of the new “Wonder Woman” movie posing as “The Breakfast Club” …
Oh wait, that was me. Anyway.
But what you may not realize is that your boss or potential boss knows that information too. And it could affect your career, especially if you’re an attorney.
According to a recent article in Bloomberg Big Law Business, both law firms and law schools are advising their students to be careful when posting material on social media. According to Lauren Casazza, the recruiting committee chair at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, lawyers need to think twice before posting because you never know who’s looking:
More and more, our identities as professionals and as people will be wrapped up in our social media presence. An attorney’s internet and social media footprint is readily accessible by clients, courts and competitors anywhere in the world.
We’ve stressed this before – lawyers need to be careful what they put out there. Especially attorneys just graduating from law school. Employers know that if they want to research you, all they have to do is head over to Facebook and look at your profile.
And it’s not just inappropriate photos we’re talking about here. It also includes your opinions on politics, religion, or the general climate of the world today. This goes for not only attorneys looking for work but employed attorneys.
Attorney Tweets Going Viral: A Case Study
Here’s a case that ENX2 was asked to consult on – a Florida attorney who was pretty active on Twitter had decided to criticize a popular student activist on his personal account. He said derogatory things about the activist and compared him to a Nazi. The worse part was the attorney, a partner at a Big Law firm, was also a member of the advisory board to the very school the student went to.
The post goes viral. People bombard not only the attorney’s social accounts but also targeted the law firm, insisting that the attorney should be fired.
The law firm was frantic — what to do? It calls their PR person who calls ENX2 and we came up with a statement for the firm to use on social media to calm the situation. But the damage had been done. That attorney was later fired and now the law firm has a black mark against it.
Now the example above is an extreme scenario and in a case like that, you’re going to need a crisis management plan in place. But it doesn’t have to be that extreme – just one negative comment on an Instagram photo could persuade a potential client not to hire you. Remember, the majority of clients are turning to the internet to research you and your practice before making contact. And that includes social media accounts.
And let’s not forget, clients aren’t the only ones who are looking you up. Yes, the courts and your colleagues are also checking you out. They want to make sure you’re not saying anything you’re not supposed to about case matters. And if you do, you’re in a heap of trouble.
So, what do you do? How can you straddle that line between keeping it personal and keeping it clean?
It’s difficult but it can be done! You just have to be very aware of what you put on your social media account. Remember, there’s nothing wrong about posting a political matter you feel passionately about on your social media – just be very aware of who is reading your post.